Favoring the terrestrials

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Favoring the terrestrials

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) announced Thursday it would apply a new advertising guideline for terrestrial broadcasting services in the country. The new system, which would put caps on the total amount of commercials, was touted by the government watchdog as an effective way to reinvigorate the broadcast industry.

However, the measure is nothing but a favor for terrestrial television as it most likely will lead to a drastic increase of commercials for terrestrial broadcasting companies, which would cause inconvenience for viewers, a number of media experts pointed out. The regulatory body can hardly avoid the criticism that it took an action in favor of the four terrestrial TV stations, including KBS, MBC and SBS.

When implemented, the new system will limit the total running time of commercials for broadcast media - instead of regulating the length and number of commercials according to their types. Until now, terrestrial media could air commercials at a maximum of six minutes per hour. Under the new system, however, they can air commercials for a maximum of nine minutes per hour - a whopping 50 percent increase. As a result, audiences will have to watch a maximum of 54 commercials, each 15 seconds, before and after a 90-minute program.

Media experts have expressed concerns that the new system will lead to a noticeable increase of commercials for terrestrial television. A survey commissioned by the KCC and conducted by the Korea Information Society Development Institute forecast that the change would bring terrestrial broadcast media an additional profit of 63.8 billion won ($59.1 million) at a maximum. The government watchdog is under criticism for dismissing the intrinsic differences between terrestrial television, which uses airwaves - a public property - and paid-for television companies, which depend on license fees from subscribers. It also is turning a blind eye to the need for a balanced development of disparate types of media.

The government also plans to push ahead with the introduction of ultra-high-definition (UHD) television for terrestrial channels and raising of license fees for KBS. Since the introduction of UHD services for terrestrial television is unprecedented around the globe, it has drawn criticism. Even though terrestrial TV companies say they deserve active government support, their financial underperformance stems from their inability to respond to the rapid changes in the media environment. Many of the creative programs popular with audiences are produced by paid-for channels through their bold investments.

The government must encourage terrestrial channels to strengthen their competitiveness through painful restructuring with a bigger picture in mind about the future of our broadcast media rather than siding with them. That’s also the global tide for the media.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30

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